For awhile now, I’ve been pondering the principle of Kindness. I’m not really sure what prompted my thoughts to meander down that path, but I think it’s due partly to how distant I see people getting.
It’s like we were all living in this world together and mostly getting along, agreeing that there are things that are accepted courtesies that fellow human creatures extend to one another. Then suddenly, something happened that made us forget to recognize the humanness in the people we co-exist with.
Now, most of us really do consider ourselves to be kind, good people. But kindness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. So the question that I have asked in my self-examination is this: How kind do other people think you are? Are you ready to ask that question, too? Great! Then let’s take a little…
1. Do you say, “Thank You”?
….And mean it? Recognizing the small and big gestures of others with sincere gratitude acknowledges that you have noticed their contribution to making the world a better place. When someone attempts to hold the door for you, and you brush that kindness off, or, maybe even go so far as to use another entrance (if there are double doors, for example), is actually demeaning to that person, and is equivalent to refusing a gift that someone put a lot of thought into. Maybe you are perfectly capable of opening that door for yourself- good for you! But how capable are you when it comes to honoring the kind gestures of others? Helping others to feel appreciated is a true mark of a kind person.
2. Do you often pay genuine compliments?
One day I got up feeling pretty rotten. I felt thrown together. It had been a difficult week where I was beaten down more than I was lifted up. It was one of those days where if I had a dog, he’d have run off and left me. I maneuvered my car into line at the gate at work, and held my I.D. out to the guard. After the guard passed my I.D. back to me, he smiled and said, “You sure do look nice this morning!” These guys never make comments like that. But this guy spoke right into that place my heart needed a little patching.
Affirming other people at whatever point we are able is a mark of kindness. Affirmations are not about admiration of how someone looks or dresses, though that might be the first place that we start. Affirmations speak to the soul of a person. When we can pay a sincere compliment, we encourage another human that they are important enough to be noticed.
3. Do you consistently let others go first?
What is this fascination of being first? It’s like we all have this desperate ache to be faster, stronger, better. Sometimes I can actually hear the Bionic Woman sound effects when I’m approaching the check-out line at the supermarket!
What does letting someone else go first, or at least ahead of you, say to them? It elevates that person’s importance. It tells them that you notice their value, and recognize that they are important. People who are kind let others go first because making others feel valued is higher on their agenda than having some sort of perceived advantage of better-ness. This is a principle that Jesus taught when His disciples would get worked up over who would have the more important role in His kingdom. Keeping our selves in perspective helps us keep the needs of others on the forefront of our thoughts.
4. Do you frequently smile at people you pass in hallways, shops, etc.?
Not in a creepy, stalker kind of way, but merely a recognition that there is another human being, a person of true worth and value, who is in close enough proximity that you could be said to be occupying the same space at the same time. Smiling, again, notices another person. It means that you are looking outward, to others, not only at what is of momentary interest to you. Smiling is an act of kindness because it shows another person that he or she is worth the energy and effort. Honestly, I don’t think that any of us smile nearly enough. In fact, in the day-to-day of my life, I see more people trying harder NOT to smile. Let’s stop being those people and start getting this question right!
5. Do you always return a greeting?
I know, you’ve got a lot on your mind. And sometimes, you’ve got that thing plugged in the side of your head where you have to constantly be talking to people who are not present. You know, being connected to someone who isn’t physically present has become the number one excuse people use for not being connected to someone who is standing right in front of you.
Ignoring people who pass by you, who are waiting in line with you, who are sitting in waiting rooms with you- maybe there’s a perceived sense of safety in that emotional distance, but it’s tearing our society apart. And it is definitely not a mark of kindness.
Be present. Be friendly. Be kind.
The bottom line of these five marks of kindness is this: Kind people notice the existence and value of others and they are willing to put their own comfort and convenience aside for a few seconds to recognize that existence and value.
So how’d you do? Are there other marks of a kind person that you’ve noticed? Post them in the comments below.